This interview was done by Steve Holland and Jen Bolden of Wallflowers and Weeds magazine and was published in 1994.
I feel the need to take a few moments to explain my Christianity. It's not that I think my Christianity is better than anyone elses. I also know that I do not live any kind of more holy life than other people.
I have had a strange relationship with Christianity since I was 18, and it has often changed shades many times since then. I think that everyone seems to "need religion" -- everyone needs a personal relationship with a power greater than themselves because we are all in various stages of growth. For me, I've had an interest in the mystical since an early age. I didn't grow into this because of environment: my environment led me instead to modern art at a young age, and from there, I got into alternative thought in religion very young. I have tried New Age philosophies, Paganism, Yoga, Gurdjieff, etc. At time I saw that I wasn't getting anywhere being more mystical and often settled on a worldview that centered on Christianity, probably the way the old alchemist's centered on it. But being an American, I of course was bombarded by American Christianity. It is an examination of such that these interviews and reviews pertain to.
I see American Christianity as often being very harmful to the psyche. Fundamentalist Christians are often against everyone including themselves. I have many friends who are more Buddhist or aetheist than Christian. I don't cut myself off from other expressions of my spirituality like many other Christians feel they must.
It is very clear to thinking people that a person's religious beliefs should be tolerated. For example, look at the National Socialist party of Hitler. This was not a Christian organization. It was a form of Socialism, as its name says. Look also at the other aetheistic regimes of Pol Pot, Lenin, Mao, etc. We actually see a form of the same thing today on the Internet or in so-called art culture when people put down religion. Being against someone because of their religion is a type of fascism, a fascism that does nothing for anyone, and only creates havoc and separation in the human environment. It is a deluded and dark dream, now manifesting itself in many of the so-called artistic, or better, hedonistic "elites" and "alternative youth."
How do agencies like the Salvation Army function, and what about groups like World Vision and thousands of other agencies that bring food and medical care to other nations? These are not nations ravaged by missionaries, they are ravaged by their own inner struggles, power-hungry army staff and economic warfares.
We are indeed living in a strange age. People have become so blind today that they even criticize Mother Teresa. It is this blindness that I have tried to fight, and which became a great issue for me even as I was in the inner circle of some of Seattle's art and music circles in the big hey day before Seattle became a trendy place. I saw there was more to just following a trend that really was never the heart of the power that is behind the truth that we all need to follow to live in a better world, individually and collectively.
People use criticism of religion to bolster their own ego. I am not ashamed of my spiritual beliefs for they have done great things for me as they do great things for others if they only would give them a fair chance.
This whole topic is needing examination but of all things I mostly would like not to be seen as a member of the "Evangelical Christian" movement -- with its hatred of all things subtle and intellectual.
This interview talks about my zine "News from a Friend" which was a small magazine that explored spirituality and the arts.
What has the response been like for "News from a Friend"?
The response has really been great, better than what I expected. The kinds of artists that I hoped for friendship with gave me friendship, and I could put together a long list of praise from zine-writers and non-zine-writers who have told me that the magazine really touched them. This is great, because I tend to get self-criticial.
What potential do you see in the Christian art underground?
As long as we aren't being afraid of being branded as heretics by the more fundamentalist among us, I see this as the beginning for a great change in the way Christianity has been going. Fear is our worst enemy, this fear of either the fundamentalists or some of the non-spiritual we have run into who pretend to be spiritual. There are a lot of hurt, disturbed people we can run into, and at times it becomes hard to see them as they are, even when they do something to hurt us. There are "evil people" even in Christianity -- people who don't have Christian standards but pretend to -- and we can't fear that evil will win over goodness.
I see the potential as the gifted staying true to their gift, and not let the fear of the mass of Christian artists get in their way. Artists are brilliant people, and perhaps the ones who will contribute the most to theology. I think its artists who are in tune with their heart and aren't going to buy the lie that we should just give up on society because its so far gone. That is an implicit message of the Christian media today. I think we should put our standards in a different place. If our standard was how the evangelicals tend to turn people off to Jesus and Christianity by their political wars and their campaigns, we would be more fruitful. We can't pretend we are some kind of clan, because then our activity gets cult-like. We are all a part of the same fabric of human life.
As far as what has come recently in Christian art, I've personally never had much for either of the Schaeffers (Francis and his son) and I think we will be going way beyond them. We can't be afraid, we don't need to use other people as references, whether it be the Schaeffers, or Steve Scott, or whomever. This has been the mode of stagnation of every discipline: pleasing men and not truth and beauty. Artistic innovation has always been originated by the young. We have to be real artists, not some kind of phony brand of "art for Christians." Our art has to stand as art for people who aren't Christians. We can't look at the commercialism either, keeping our heads in journals or zines and think that this is the realm of great art -- the library is where we should be, researching what we really feel deep inside us.
I see the best phase as being when we can stand side by side with artists who have every other kind of philosophical beliefs and say this is why I am a Christian and be taken seriously. Right now, we haven't got the guts because we deep down don't want to be associated with the "fundamentalist" agenda. It is a very dark time for Christianity in the West, and sadly, a lot of those in the Christian art movement don't understand it and go right along. But the more I grow I realize why I am a Christian and its not because of fear, its because of a fine line in it compared to other ideas: the universal hope it offers mankind, the positive effects it has in my life and the life of the others it affects when it isn't drowned with so-called toxic faith.
How do you feel that "alternative" ideals relate to being a follower of Jesus.
I have seen how alternatives without Jesus have been very friendly, kind, brave people, who would let you crash on their couch even if they barely knew you. And I've seen how it can be the opposite, a haven for a lot of people with serious attitude problems, and a meanness of heart. I think the alternative lifestyle can be pretty nice, non-stressful and obviously a lot of them aren't materialistic. On the other side, Christianity as it has been known, seems often a harboring of ignorance, of the worse things in man. Christians at times seem all frozen up. Look at how Christians often sided with things like racism, and its going on today with ethnocentrism. This calling of everything we don't like or may be exotic satanic is a good example of that. For instance, the discipline of physical yoga can be very, very healthy and make you look and feel young at 50, 60 and even 70. Christians shouldn't be turned off to that, because in the end, its only they who are losing out.
Jesus was obviously the chief friend of the friendless. Its said in "success" or "motivational thinking" books to be careful who you hang out with, because you will take on their qualities. I don't know if this is really true, but if it is, as Christians we have to sacrifice ourselves to a certain point and be willing to hang around with the outcastes, even if it damages our aura, if you will.
I've given warnings about "alternativism" in my zines a lot because I'm 31 now and I've spent a lot of time in alternative circles of non-Christians, and while I don't regret it, I also can see the difference between when I just tried to serve God for holiness sake and when I was into making a name for myself as an alternative artist. Basically, a real Christian will befriend anyone, and alternatives sometimes only want to befriend people who are cool in a certain way. In that way they're no different than yuppies or old-fart town businessmen you see in church. That's what I've been saying to watch out for.
What inspired your theory of Virtuist art?
In 1983 I was doing a solo synthesizer concert at this art gallery in downtown Seattle and these three strange people walked in. We exchanged numbers and I started hanging out with them. They had all kinds of strange tastes in art and in the summer of 83 I got turned on to Industrial music, as it really was back then. But they had this really dark side as well as a very academic side to them. They had books on serial killers, abnormal pyschology, magick, human sacrifice, all the dark things of mankind that Industrialism was really interested in when it started. As a teenager I had a copy of The Third Mind by Burroughs and Gysin, and was reading about art and philosophy. I saw that an art theorist was a good direction for myself to go in because I wanted to express what God was doing with my heart at the time, and how it was superior to the things that Genesis P'Orridge or SPK were about. The negativity of these people I knew was very heavy and I looked at being with them as a covert mission.
But they actually became some of my best friends and I hung around with them for about five years after that. But they never became Christians.
So, in January 1984 I started the Virtuist manifestoes to explore this area of the aesthetics of purity. Its been the ultimate anti-fashion statement. I've added to it now and then to reflect where I was at during the time. I don't want it to be a piece of 1980's-1990's "Christian" propaganda, I want it to be larger than that.
What about music projects? what are your goals as a musician?
Music to me as been closely allied to science, the spectacular and Surrealism. I've always like exotic, sparkling music, and I've tried to write that kind. I haven't had too much professional band experience, I love to jam and collaborate but mostly I compose non-pop music by myself. I've got pretty high standards so I don't really release my things too often. Largely, I see the Virtuist projects as being more "important" in a spiritual way than my music, so I haven't concentrated on my music. I should begin to see them as the same thing. I would like to one day put down my writing to focus more on my music.
Explain ParaMind and how you feel it can be applied.
ParaMind is the name of a brainstorming program in Windows (note: now it is also in Mac and Linux) that I developed and am now marketing. It grew out of the Virtuist writings I was doing in 1985-87, an idea I used to called Para-literature, which I now call meaningful word interaction exhaustion. If we use up the meaningful interactions of words, we can theoretically come up with every meaningful idea possible. I see it as a program that can help us see the beauty of God, to help us get outside of the limitations of our mind. A target market is research institutes!
What is the future of "news from a friend" -- what else do you have planned for the future?
I think "news from a friend" is a zine that needs to exists from some of the things that people have said to me about it. Christianity is too constricted, it just reflects the time. In the late sixties and early 70's we had a more relaxed Christianity, in Spain in the middle ages we had barbaric Christianity. So, I want to throw questions in the face of today's Christianity, both mainstream and the zines and products of the Christian underground. The last issue I wrote was a little too mainstream for my usual tastes and I think I said some things that are questionable. I had temporarily bought into the lies that surrounded me.
Psychologically, man is often a weak creature, and we have to take into account the weak among us, not just the strong. The thing I hate the most is when people take other people's realities and life-stories as negligible. What modern evangelical Christianity so often does is create a theology for a small segment of society. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of inner-city intellectuals don't like to consider themselves as active Christians. And instead of saying that we have been stupid and judgemental, we say that the world is going to hell. News from a Friend when its at its best is a slam in the face of whatever bands, writers or whoever, that lifts up this delusion of a God who is more into our suffering than our peace, joy and love (the fruits of the Spirit).
I'm actually a little afraid because it almost seems that you can't turn on a Christian radio station without encountering a lot of heavy burdens: politicalisms and money-ploys, plots to send bibles to the moon in case we left any astronauts up there. What evil wants us to do is have a little heirarchy of people who don't care that much about people spout a negative Christianity that hardly anyone can accept. And then they go on to say that its the world that has gone to hell. I don't know how many people will remember mainstream Christianity in the 1970's but it was very much, "accept that Jesus died for your sins and you will go to heaven." That was the main pitch with "accept Jesus into your heart and your sins will be forgiven and you will be a new man." Well, it's not hard to see how far we have gotten from that. Now, so many are so concerned with heresy hunting and political power agendas that we have totally forgotten about being concerned with real holiness and joy.
We don't want to have anything to do with it and I think that is why the Christian (art) underground can't blossum: because the true among us don't want to really be represented as Christians when there are all these questionable Christians out there making idiots of Jesus. Deep down in our spirits since we have been opened by art we know something is wrong. So we clam up. And until we can somewhat understand this for ourselves we don't stand a chance interfacing with the world, or even with the reality of art.
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